The Future is Drone Racing

June 24, 2015

11:00 am

I think everyone knows that James Naismith invented the sport of basketball. But did you know that the only reason he did it was to entertain a rowdy group of young men during the winter months at a Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA?

True story: he drew up the rules in about an hour, disseminated them freely, and watched as his new sport slowly grew and took the country by storm. The point I’m trying to make here is that it doesn’t take anything incredibly special to start a new sport. In fact, all you need is something engaging and a sense of competition.

With those two elements in mind, I always think immediately of racing. After all, it’s been a large part of human history and has evolved alongside our civilizations. What was once horse racing is now F1. Here’s an interesting question though: what does the futuristic, evolved version of F1 look like?

I have a theory, sparked by an encounter with a small video clip: the future is drone racing. Specifically, FPV Racing.

I came across this WebM in early June on a reddit thread in r/whoadude. I probably watched it 10 times straight before my gut instinct told me this was absolutely something I had to dig into further.

The clip itself is from a gizmag YouTube video that delves into the drone racing scene in Melbourne, Australia. What they’re doing, FPV Racing, is an entirely new sport that combines quadcopters, first person view (FPV) video, and high speed racing. Check it out:

As you can probably tell, what makes this form of racing so cool, outside of the highly agile and quick quadcopters, is the FPV goggles. In my personal opinion it’s the coolest application of virtual reality (VR) tech that I’ve ever seen – yes, even cooler than Oculus.

You actually can’t race without the goggles. How else would you be able to see your drone on the other end of a forest course, or through all the support beams of an underground parking garage?

Each racer’s goggles are tuned directly into the feed from the camera on the front of their quadcopter. That is, you’re basically flying through the course like you would if you were sitting in the cockpit of the drone itself.

Further, the spectators can choose which pilot’s stream they want to tune their own goggles into, if they have a pair. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch, and it requires an incredible amount of finesse to get it right.


Not to mention, this could have a big impact on the future of racing. In a lot of ways it could go the same route as F1, or even NASCAR for that matter.

Highly skilled pilots are needed, which creates a potential point of entry for corporate sponsors to build up the sport. Manufacturing companies could also stand to get in on the action by making custom parts, quadcopter frames, or motors.

The best part though is that the barrier to entry is incredibly low. You don’t need to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars – a couple hundred dollars gets you in the door, and that means the future of the sport could have a diverse cohort of racers all flying for the gold.

It leads to one important question: what do you need to get started? The first thing to do is figure out if you want to build your own drone or buy a ready to fly (RTF) or almost ready to fly (ARF) model.

Each option has its respective merits: buying a RTF or ARF model saves a lot of time and maybe a little bit of money, but it limits your overall experience. Taking the time to build your quadcopter is difficult, but it also give you intimate knowledge on how to fix your drone when it crashes – because you will crash.

For either course I’ll refer you to a guide I found on FPVRACING.TV. It has recommendations on RTF and ARF models as well as a list of parts needed should you choose to build your own. Also, reddit has some dynamite communities over at /r/quadcopter, /r/fpv, /r/fpvracing, and /r/multicopter if you’re looking for more resources.

As always, make sure to check your local regulations on drones before you commit the time or money. Until then, enjoy these kick ass videos of FPV racers:

Image Credit: Hubsan X4 on Amazon




Did you like this article?

Get more delivered to your inbox just like it!

Sorry about that. Try these articles instead!

Will is a Senior Writer with Tech.Co, based out of America's Finest City: San Diego. He covers all territory West of the Mississippi river, digging deep for awesome local entrepreneurs, companies, and ideas. He's the resident Android junkie and will be happy to tell you why you should switch to the OS. When he's off the clock, Will focuses his literary talent on the art of creative writing...or you might find him surfing in Ocean Beach. Follow Will on Twitter @WJS1988

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)